Healthcare in San Francisco



Healthcare insurance in San Francisco and every other city and state in the United States is not mandatory. While this may prove to be a disadvantage in the nation's goal to provide the best healthcare to all, this can also be appreciated for the freedom it offers those who will be on the receiving end. 

Launched in 2007, the Healthy San Francisco Programme was designed to be the world's first ever healthcare program that aims to provide universal coverage to all city residents (18 and above) who are not qualified for other public insurance and are earning little. This scheme covers nearly all medical services from mental care to the provision of prescription drugs, the only exceptions being dental, and ophthalmology treatments. Under this programme, members are required to pay on a quarterly basis, as well as some point of service costs. 

How to Qualify for Health San Francisco (HSF) 

Eligibility to the Healthy San Francisco Programme is not conditional on one’s health status, employment, immigration and citizenship which mean that the scheme clearly is on favour of all expats, particularly those who are just beginning to build their new home in the city. Expats who want to participate in the scheme simply have to show proof that they live in San Francisco and are earning below the income cap for coverage. 

Those who are making a yearly income below USD 10,830 can enrol in the program for free while those earning more will be paying a fixed enrolment fee of USD 20 to USD 150 monthly which is nearly 300% lower than what a typical insurance company in the city charges. There are instances when patients have to make out-of-the-pocket payments, but these will be very cheap amounts such as USD 10 for primary consultations, USD 200 for hospital confinements and about USD 5 to USD 25 for medicines. 

Medicare: An Alternate Healthcare Option 

The HSF, however, is not intended to be a substitute for other public healthcare programmes such as Medicare or Medi-Cal. Local government officials would not even call the HSF insurance. It is simply a safety net for those whose incomes disqualify them from Medicare or Medi-Cal. On top of the Healthy San Francisco healthcare program, all residents in San Francisco, including American citizens and expatriates who are holding permanent visas or green cards, may apply for the federal government's social healthcare program, Medicare. 

Under this scheme, citizens and legally documented expats who are at least 65 years of age have lived in the US on permanent residence visas for at least five years automatically qualify. Those who do not fall under this category have to pay Medicare taxes for at least ten years or 40 quarters need to pay a monthly premium to be enrolled. The scheme has four main parts namely, Part A for hospitalisations, Part B for outpatient medical cases, Part C which offers an option to get private insurance plus prescription drug coverage and Part D which also supplements a Part A or Part B coverage with the addition of certain prescription drugs. 

Hospitals in San Francisco 

Hospitals in San Francisco are among the best in California but expats must be mindful that services are also expensive and some non-emergency care needs can be refused if the patient is not covered by health insurance. There are tonnes of private and public hospitals in San Francisco. Treatments are cheaper in the public facilities but services are more modern and sophisticated in private hospitals. One of the most prominent medical facilities in San Francisco is the San Francisco Medical Centre which operates under the globally acclaimed University of California. There is also the California Pacific Medical Centre in Castro Street and the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Centre in 1001 Potrero Avenue. 

Urgent Care Clinics 

Those who are in need of primary care can consider going to urgent care clinics where the quality of equipment and services are not far off from what you can find in the main hospitals. These clinics usually operate on a first-come-first-served basis, but going here can be a considerable option for expats who are on a tight budget. Currently, San Francisco has 21 walk-in clinics whereas around four percent specialise in paediatric urgent care whilst a majority offer services such as flu shots, school physicals and STD testing. Below are some of the urgent care facilities within the city of San Francisco: 

Tel: 888-861-8280 

  • Access Health (9 am to 7 pm from Mondays to Fridays)

2400 Mission St.

Tel: 415-643-6162 

  • Concentra Urgent Care (7am to 7pm from Mondays to Fridays)

2 Connecticut Street

Tel: 415-621-5055 

  • GoHealth Urgent Care (8am to 8pm from Mondays to Fridays)

4598 Mission Street

Tel: 415-965-7941 

Expatriates may find it inconvenient to have to think of monthly health insurance premiums during their first few months of moving to the city. This is how the optional healthcare policy of San Francisco helps those who have just arrived in attending to more immediate concerns. However, it is still to everyone's advantage, regardless of age or citizenship, to obtain health insurance as a general safeguard at the soonest possible time.


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